(2006) dir. Zack Snyder
viewed: 03/17/07 at Regal Union Square Stadium 14, New York, NY
This is the first movie that I ever saw in New York. Is that an interesting fact?
Visually, 300, is an aesthetic blast. Shot on green and blue screen, with a nearly complete digital landscape, the film follows an approach taken to a further extreme in Sin City (2005), which was also a film adapted from a Frank Miller comic book. It’s violent and gory, but stylized both in its digital quality and in its attempts to mimic Miller’s drawing style. For instance, a guy jumps up and stabs another “guy” in the eye. It moves really quick and then slows down for the impact. It’s kooky.
While I am sure that there would be those to dispute my appreciation for some of the visual aesthetics, I think that the film had a pretty hot trailer, flashing through the visuals and quoting out the powerfully punchy catchphrases, spewed with great panache by Gerard Butler, “This is Sparta!”
While all this is well and good, and entertaining to boot, the film is also intensely disturbing in its broad and deep racism. The story is based in history, the 300 Spartans who fought a massive Persian army, the battle of Thermopylae. But it’s impossible to hide from the modern wars and contrast between the European, tough but honorable Spartans and the Persians who are literally portrayed as deviant monsters. They are not even people with faces. Behind a mask, we find that the Persians look like lost orcs from The Lord of the Rings series of films. They also have a be-fanged giant and some big fat guy with big, rough blades for arms. And then their freakshow sexuality and suggested perversion.
Hey, the Spartans kick out their ugly mutants.
The film is about the glory of dying in battle, of honor for ones country, for killing and brotherhood, and good old heterosexuality (as some aside about Athenians being homosexuals). It’s pumped up and I know that there are a lot of people out there who are getting big hard-ons over the violence and the tone and the call to battle. This film is like a recruiting film for the military, and I’m sure it will be like that. So many aspects of the film are just downright right-wing or racist or what-have-you that I don’t know that I have seen something so morally repugnant since the last time I saw Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. Or something.
It’s pretty fucking nuts. Miller’s take on history, though clearly modified, is only metaphorical in a separate sense. The film is about actual history, about peoples of different regions and cultures, and while there is a villain inside of Sparta, he is a politician and not a glorious warrior. You cannot take this out of its literal context, though I have heard that some people have tried, suggesting that the small against the huge would potentially make the Persians the modern day Americans or something like that. I highly doubt it. Miller was writing a comic book about the Iraq War and Osama bin Laden that was right out of WWII-era propaganda.
Whatever one thinks of all of this, it was interesting. There is a lot going on and a lot to analyze. Like why don’t Spartans have body hair? Why do they all have six-pack abs and sheen with sweat like glycerine. This is homoerotic pornography for war hawks. This is 300.